#Panama attorney Ismael Gerli Champsaur indicted for forgery, but his victims are still in jail

| November 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

photo-17-600x399In October 2016, the Panamanian Prosecution Office of District N15 officially indicted Ismael Gerli Champsaur (pictured), a Panamanian attorney and partner of law firm Gerli&Co, with forgery of public documents.

Panamanian attorney Ismael Gerli

Panamanian attorney Ismael Gerli

At first glance, this indictment does not seem to be importance, save possibly for the local news. However, the stakes are significantly higher: a whole family of Spanish citizens: father, mother and son, have been detained in the jail of Las Palmas (Spain) for almost one and a half years, without any official charges and based on evidence which has been declared secret, evidence that according to numerous press reports has been provided solely by the Panamanian attorney, Ismael Gerli.


Spanish businessman Vladimir Kokorev during the trial in the hospital in Panama

This truly Kafkaesque case starts when Vladimir Kokorev (65), a Spanish businessman of Russian-Jewish origins, residing in Panama together with his wife Yulia (67) and their son Igor (33) since 2012, decides to stop working with firm Gerli&Co. At first, Ismael Gerli demanded a “severance” for the termination as well as a compensation for “future services yet to be determined” – in the sum of $300,000. After Kokorev rejected Gerli’s offer, the Panamanian attorney started a methodical harassment campaign against the businessman as well as other members of his family and their new Panamanian attorneys.

Dozens of emails sent by Gerli between February and July of 2015 accuse Kokorev and his two sons of being “Russian mafia”, and among other unprintable insults, contain threats to “reveal all their secrets” – unless, of course, they pay Gerli the sum of $300,000.

Having received no reply nor money, Gerli travelled to Spain, where he denounced his former client and all members of his family of money laundering, offering himself as the “key witness” for the prosecution. The alleged misconduct referred to a 15-year old story, based on which several Spanish journalists related Vladimir Kokorev to a supposed financial scheme of the President of Equatorial Guinea, Theodoro Obiang.


Investigating judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano

Those accusations were never proven – in fact, Kokorev won dozens of court cases for libel. And yet, as strange as it seems, shortly upon Gerli’s visit, Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano, an investigating judge from Las Palmas (Spain), issued an international arrest warrant on Vladimir Kokorev, his wife and their children, who were arrested in Panama on 7 September 2015 and voluntarily consented to their extradition to Spain.

As pointed out by Kokorev’s family attorney, Leonardo Paul Aparicio: “I recommended my clients not to consent the extradition. The arrest warrants were absolutely vague and contained generic charges, not substantiated by any evidence at all. Besides, it is not like the Kokorevs were hiding – they were registered, with their residential addresses in Panama with the Spanish Embassy, where they received official communications, such as voting ballots. Therefore, the Kokorevs whereabouts were perfectly known by the Spanish authorities and, in normal circumstances, they should have been subpoenaed to appear in court – not issued an international arrest warrant. However, due perhaps to the initial shock of being arrested and bad conditions of the detention facilities they were put in Panama and their belief that the arrests were a terrible misunderstanding, the family never fought on their extradition – in fact they consented on the easiest, abbreviated modality.”

What the Kokorev family did not anticipate was that, upon their arrival to Las Palmas in October (having spent more than a month in freedom on bail in Panama, and voluntarily delivered themselves into the hands of Spanish police) the Spanish judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano had simply put them in jail. No charges, or evidence of any kind was presented against them. There was no bail hearing. No date for a case hearing.

The decision of Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano is simply perplexing for a democratic country. Until today, the Kokorev family remains secluded in a prison of Las Palmas in virtually the same situation. And although, apparently the judge’s decision is pending appeal before the Constitutional Court in Spain, and another case is on the way to be filed by Kokorev’s attorneys in Strasbourg, the fact remains – a whole family has been imprisoned for almost one year and a half, with no evidence presented against any detainee.

In March 2015, Kokorev’s Spanish attorneys presented a comprehensive list of commercial agreements for supply of transportation vessels and other equipment exported from the former republics of USSR, signed between Vladimir Kokorev and the government of Equatorial Guinea, together with invoices, payment orders, testimonials of Kokorev’s employees and corresponding copies of bank transfers, as well a letter issued by the Public Attorney Office of Equatorial Guinea certifying to the veracity of those agreements and reality of the transactions.

Not only those documents prove that Vladimir Kokorev had, in fact, maintained a commercial relationship with the Department of Infrastructure and Public Works of the African country, but also to the fact that Vladimir Kokorev was the only member of his family to have any relationship at all with Equatorial Guinea. Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano simply opted not to address this evidence in any way, and kept all the members of Kokorev family in prison, once again claiming that the case is “under secrecy”.

Apparently, as far as human rights are concerned, De Vega deems the Spanish Canary Islands to be more similar to Guantanamo than a part of European Community. In the words of Javier Cordero, a Spanish journalist covering the case in Spanish digital newspaper MadridCode: “De Vega’s rationale to keep in prison not only Vladimir Kokorev, but also his wife and son, defies any logical explanation.”

But if we remember Ismael Gerli, recently charged with forgery, perhaps there is a rationale to De Vega’s strategy, after all. The report, issued by the Panamanian Prosecution in support of Gerli’s indictment, states that “in the three days following the arrest of Kokorev family in Panama, Ismael Gerli forged a number of documents that allowed him a controlling position in the companies and foundations belonging to his former clients”.

These companies owned two apartments where Vladimir Kokorev, his wife and his son had established their residence, as well as an office – altogether, the properties that Gerli intended (and in some instances, partially achieved) to transfer to himself is valued in 2 million dollars. The forgeries were committed by Gerli only days after the Kokorevs arrest, and as stated in the aforementioned report “taking advantage of the fact that his former clients were under detention and therefore particularly vulnerable”.

Moreover, Ismael Gerli changed the name of one of the companies (owned by Igor Kokorev, Vladimir’s son) from Palm River to Alto Tafira Foundation, which happens to be the name of the prison where Igor Kokorev would be extradited one month later. Besides the fact that Ismael Gerli’s purpose was to denigrate and harass his former client, this rises another question – how Ismael Gerli, now facing a four to eight-year sentence for forgery, had the knowledge that Igor Kokorev would be imprisoned in that particular jail in Spain?

As Gerli himself has admitted in numerous occasions to the press, going as far as to even publishing part of his witness statement on-line (which later was taken down), he is, in fact, the “key witness” of the prosecution and has supplied the Spanish authorities with documents supposedly proving Kokorev’s guilt.

The indictment against Gerli, obviously invalidates his role as witness as well as calls to scrutiny to any “documentation” he has provided to the Spanish investigative judge, as it is obvious that Judge de Vega’s “secrecy” is a self-serving measure, aimed to delay the moment in which she will have to admit that, in fact, the arrest warrants on Kokorevs were issued solely based on the testimony of Ismael Gerli.

More importantly, the so-called Kokorev Case is a clear show-case of the deficiencies of Spanish legal system as a whole. Kenneth Rijock, a US financial analysist and expert in money laundering, even calls as far as to increasing the Country Risk upon Spain, due to “its Gulag-style treatment of Vladimir Kokorev, and his family”.

“Wealthy Spanish industrial interests, unhappy with American participation in EG’s oil industry, as the petroleum deposits were not discovered until after Spain granted EG its independence, reportedly want that lucrative business for themselves, and want EG President Obiang out of office, so that they can install a more malleable successor, who will co-operate with them,” states Rijock.


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Category: A Frontpage, Interpol, Spain, World

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